• "Many including myself, still mourn the British invasion": Joe Williams. (Facebook)Source: Facebook
COMMENT | Why the NRL is wrong to promote and partner-up with Recognise for the Indigenous round, explains Joe Williams.
Joe Williams

11 May 2016 - 5:33 PM  UPDATED 11 May 2016 - 5:34 PM

This weekend will see the National Rugby League celebrate the heritage of many of its great former and current players as the NRL Indigenous Round.

The celebration could be seen as a celebration of not only how talented many of our players are with the current crop, but also our past greats of the NRL.

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A weekend to showcase the flair and freakish natural abilities or our mob, but also to highlight our First Nations culture of song, spirit and dance - from the longest living continual culture on the planet.

In the lead up to this weekend, there has been a murmuring undertone amongst many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in reference to the branding of a government campaign on the sleeve of the Indigenous jerseys - 'R' for the 'Recognise campaign'.

Why should we need to be written into an English constitution?

The Recognise campaign has had millions of dollars injected into advertising which seeks constitutional recognition for Australia's First Nations people.

For many people not privy to what this means to First Nations people would say, 'well it's about time, they should be included into the constitution, after all we invaded, killed, tortured and raped many of their people - it's the least we should do.'

To our people it's not that simple.

Many of our people understand that there has to be a constitution written when a country is settled - but here comes the tricky part - our people had long lived, loved and nurtured this land for some 60,000 years prior, so why should we need to be written into an English constitution?

Many of our people strongly disagree that First Nations be included into a document that was passed in 1901 as the constitution -  making it 115 years old - when the actual inhabitants of the land have lived here for an eternity before as mentioned above.

Many including myself, still mourn the British Invasion, and are opposed to becoming part of the Commonwealth Constitution - and stand proud and tall for the sovereignty of our people.

Where is the priority?

Many First Nations people are refusing to purchase jerseys and even attending games this weekend in protest to the Recognise campaign being splashed across news and television commercials, even to the point of it being splashed on their favourite rugby league teams jersey.

The NRL is a multimillion dollar business, with the added bonus of a record breaking $1.8 billion dollar broadcasting rights deal - some 80 percent higher than the previous - yet still charge upwards of $150 to purchase a jersey.

Surely they could do their research into what the fans (and a fair share of its product being First Nations people) want before agreeing to a sponsorship deal that goes against everything that majority of our communities want.

I find it sickening that we have young children under the age of 10 dying at their own hands by suicide, our men and women both  die 10 years earlier than non-Indigenous people, despite being only three percent of the country’s population we make up 30 percent of the prison system - yet our government finds it more of a priority to inject millions of dollars to a bogus campaign that majority of our First Nations people don't want. Where is the priority?

Indigenous round should be about honouring our players and talent

Some would argue, that it must be OK if many stars of our game are partaking in the advertising for this round, even Thurston, Inglis, Thaiday are all part of the TV commercial. I ask, do those players truly know the meaning behind constitutional recognition?

If it's part of their contract to take part in such advertising due to NRL sponsorship, then is it fair that these players are being paraded in the face of First Nations Australia against what they may, or their family may object to? Yet if this campaign is successful, we will see 97 percent of the Australian (non-Indigenous people) public, vote on what is best for 3 percent of the population (First Nations people) - and countless times we have seen this fail.

For me, the NRL Indigenous round should be about honouring and showcasing the culture of our players, something for kids to look up to. Showcase some of the talent on show in our junior clubs and some of our greats from the past - Beetson, Corowa, McGrady, the list goes on.

Lastly, it is assumed sport and politics should never mix - well thanks to this weekend now being labelled 'NRL Recognise Round', many First Nations people across the country have aired their disgust, and how it is plain offensive to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people seeing 'R' splashed everywhere.

We don't need to be recognised in a 115 year old paper document, when we know we have lived here forever. 

Joe Williams is a proud Wiradjuri man, former NRL player and a professional boxer. He is the founder of The Enemy Within and currently works as the Aboriginal Education Worker at Mater Dei Catholic College.

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